Koinobori, carp-shaped streamers, or
carp windsocks, decorate the landscape of
from April through
early May, in honour of Children's Day (originally Boys' festival) on
May 5. In Japanese culture, the carp symbolizes courage and strength
because of its ability to swim up a waterfall.
Originally, the streamers were used by samurai warriors on the
battlefield. Whenever the ancient warriors were on the battlefield, they
wore full yoroi armor and flew streamers. The streamers were painted in
various colours and shapes. Some of them had carp pictures on them. They
became "carp streamers" at the beginning of the modern age.
Since the carp's courage and strength is a trait desired in boys,
families traditionally have flown koinobori from their homes to honour
top streamer, the largest, is called the fukinagashi and is often
decorated with the family crest.
next streamer is a black carp, followed by a red, a blue carp, and a
green carp. There seems to be a bit of confusion as to what they
symbolize, but the general consensus is that the black carp represents
the father of the family, the red the mother, and the blue and green the
sons. When a family has another son, a new streamer is added. But with
today's smaller families, I've never seen a koinobori with more than
The making of Koinobori began at the
end of the
when manufacturers of paper umbrellas and lanterns began accepting
orders for them. Thus, in the early days, Koinobori were made using
Washi (hand made paper), later on, they were made of cotton, and now of
polyester. The designs of Koinobori are created by the technique known
as Tegaki (hand painting).